Are your circumstances weighing you down? Do you feel trapped in your present situation? If so, you may be searching for a way out of your suffering. You may be vainly trying to find relief and solace in the flawed solutions of this world. Yet as we learn from the apostle Paul, God is the only solution to our struggles.
For years, Paul struggled with what he called "a thorn in my flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7). Scholars have theorized about what this might have been, but no one knows for sure what Paul faced. We do, however, know that it was mentally and physically exhausting for Paul. Perhaps because we aren't certain what it was, we can relate more to Paul's struggle as we compare it to our own.
In the midst of his pain and suffering, Jesus spoke directly to Paul, reassuring him of His watchcare. "Three times," says Paul, "I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
Few of us like to think of ourselves as being weak. We like to think of ourselves as self-sufficient, even in our spirituality. We think we need to be strong in our Christian walk, so when sorrow comes, we strike out against it. When faced with discouragement, we draw back in fear. In the face of disappointments, we become angry, wondering if God has forgotten us. But He hasn't, and He won't.
God didn't forget nor dismiss Paul's thorn, and He won't overlook ours. He uses life's stresses — physical and emotional — to draw us closer to Him. He can speak to us and show us how and where His grace is most efficient.
God could have eliminated Paul's struggle in a moment. But He knew that Paul would receive the greater blessing and the greater lesson by learning to rely on God's perfect strength through his difficulties. God knew that His grace would not manifest nor shine in a strong and self-sufficient person like it would in a man who suffered in weakness.
Rather than removing Paul's distress, God used it to strengthen His servant and teach him about His faithfulness in all circumstances. By trusting the Savior, Paul learned so much about mercy and grace. He discovered that no matter what he faced, God's power and grace were available to him - nothing is more powerful than these.
Paul wrote, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Do you find yourself stretched to the breaking point today? Even if you believe "I can't take another day of this. I just need to leave, to escape, to begin again," — you can't outrun God. When you are faced with hardship, you need to run toward Him, not away from His love.
Some people, even Christians, have been running from God their whole lives. When the storms of life come, instead of leaning on the everlasting arms of Christ, they choose to run to false shelters, attempting to escape His reach. In the Psalms, King David had a realization about the wonder of God's grace and forgiveness, rather than running.
He wrote, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" (Psalm 139:7-10).
People who run from God miss some of His greatest joys and blessings by failing to turn to Christ for grace and power in times of weakness. God's supernatural strength is a surge of hope and encouragement when we face difficulty or feel trapped by our circumstances. He brings an embrace of love when we suffer rejection or betrayal.
Without a doubt, you can know that no matter what life menaces you with, God will pull you to safety if you call on Him. He is the One that can save you from certain defeat and give you the hope you need. You will also find that when you pray to Him, He will deliver you from the sin that threatens your fellowship with Him.
An eternal sense of peace and security is readily available to us through prayer. Panic and anxiety are no match for God's grace. He goes before us into life's battles. The victory is ours, though it does not come through our efforts or strength. It comes from His hands and His grace. No one is more committed to our success than Christ.
No matter what you face, God's grace is sufficient. His power is revealed and made perfect through your weakness. Never be ashamed to cry out to the Lord. He listens for you and will come to you, fulfilling the promise of His matchless, perfect grace.
Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.
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